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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fresh water dolphins future in crisis - clean up the rivers...

Fresh water dolphins are in crisis and in danger of extinction in Asia. Clean up the polluted riverways and they may have a chance of survival.

Protecting dolphins means protecting their rivers whether it is the Mekong River in Cambodia where the irrawaddy dolphin exist or in China(which is now too late) or in other parts of Asia. The irrawaddy dolphins are not being killed intentially on the Mekong River, but because of dwindling fish stocks fisherman are having to resort to more destructive ways of bringing in the fish. Heavy boat usage of the Mekong is a problem too. There were once thousands of dolphins on this river, but only fourty have been spotted recently, with an estimation of a maximum of eighty remaining.

There are now only four species of river dolphins left worldwide: the boto in the Amazon are believed to be quite prolific, but the baij in China's Yangste(see below), and the bhulan and susu in Asia's Ganges and Indus river systems are critical.

It takes 6-8 years for a dolphin to mature, a pregnancy lasts 10-11 months and only one offspring is born at one time.

The Yangste River dolphin was one of the most endangered species until recently, but has now been declared officially extinct following an extensive survey of its natural habitat.

These freshwater mammals which could grow up to eight feet long and weigh up to a quarter of a ton, were the first large vertabrate forced to extinction through human activity in fifty years, and only the fourth time an entire evolutionary line of mammals have vanished from the face of the earth since the year 1500 AD.

Conservationists described the extinction of the Yangste River dolphins as a shocking tragedy recently, caused not by any persecution but by carelessness through a combination of factors which included unsustainable fishing and mass usage of the river by shipping. It should be an important lesson to other areas where dolphins inhabit.

In the 1950's it was claimed that the Yangste and its neighbouring water courses had a population of thousands of the baiji dolphins, but Chinese industrialisation and the wide transformation of the Yangste River had decimated the population. The Yangste River dolphin was reportedly a most remarkable dolphin that had seperated from other species 20 million years ago, but are officially declared extinct after being in crisis during 2006-2007.

The Yangste River or baiji dolphin may well be extinct, but the other freshwater dolphins in Asia and South America still have a chance of survival if conservationists and local fisherman and industrialists get together and take some action locally - cleaning up the pollution would be a great start.

So protecting dolphins means protecting their rivers!

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